When I was in about 7th or 8th grade, my english teacher gave us this great option to get a penpal in another country to write to and practice our english. I thought this was a totally cool idea, so I signed up for, like, 6 penpals! Most of them only wrote me back once or twice, some for a couple of years. But there was one that stuck with me.
Now I'm no spring chicken, but I use great beauty products, so I don't much look my age! But I'm here to tell you that I started writing a guy from Turkey over 25 years ago. His name is Bayram. Through letters (and I mean the hand written one that you had to post. You know, in an envelope with a stamp.) we went through our teenage years together, dreaming of meeting one day. After high school, I moved quite a few times, but I always managed to let Bayram know where I was. See, we share the same birthday. That's the connection the penpal company made to hook us up as writing partners. So if all else failed and we didn't manage to keep in touch, we'd send birthday cards!
Bayram went to Uni to become a surgeon. But not just any kind of surgeon- he's a brain surgeon. So we couldn't be any more different! It seemed forever that he was in school, while I was moving around and trying out different professions. My resume includes: Fast Food server, Retail- including shoe sales, which I still remember fondly, waiting tables- which I returned to many times!, hotel front desk supervisor, airline reservations, travel agent, travel director, modeling (boy, THOSE days are long gone!) and a pretty good student when I decided to go back to school. I got my first degree, an Associate of Art, from a community college in Colorado. After that, I decided to give a little bit more and go for the gusto, so I enrolled at the Colorado Art Institute in the Photography department. It wasn't easy, as I certainly wasn't the youngest student in the class by that time. Going back to school after such a long time can be pretty challenging, but I had my head on straight by that time and burned the candle at both ends. I'm glad I stopped putting around, but a bit sad it took me so long to discover my true talent.
Anyway, Bayram is now, what I imagine, top of his field. We talked on the phone one time when he was doing a semester at a college out east- I'm afraid I've forgotten which one. It was an awkward chat, but really nice. Unfortunately, I wasn't in a position to travel that far to see him. But I swore I wouldn't leave this planet until we one day could meet.
Bayram is now married with, I think, 3 kids. We don't keep in touch as much as we used to and often birthdays go by without a card in the post. We recently found each other again on Facebook. Of course, I'm now married and living in England. I figured when we moved here that Turkey wasn't so far away anymore and tried to convince my husband we should take a vacation there. At first he didn't agree. But he has a Dutch cousin who's been there several times and he helped me convince my husband that it would be a great vacation.
We finally made it to Antalya, Turkey earlier this month. Now Turkey is a big country and I wasn't sure where Bayram was living, but I gave it a shot and asked him if he had time to come to Antalya for lunch or something. I'm afraid I might disappoint you here, but he wasn't able to make it. But we were so close! I'm not too bummed over it, because I know we'll go back to Turkey and maybe that will be the magic time. Turkey is such a beautiful country and the people are so welcoming. The food is great, there's so much history and the beaches are fantastic!
The best part about our trip to Turkey (does this feel like a 7th grade report on what you did on summer break?!) was spending time with family and my husband. Sure, I wish I could have seen my old friend Bayram, meet his wife and kids and know what it would be like to see him face to face, hear his voice, find out what his life has been like for the last 25 years. But wishing is half the fun. I'm going to make this dream come true, you just wait!
I hope you enjoy a couple images from Antalya, Turkey.